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A warm and tumultuous weekend, which saw multiple storm cells drop varying inches of rain across the state, mellowed as the week progressed. While southern counties saw highs in the low 90s over the weekend, the northern region dropped from 80, to lows as far down as 45 degrees in the past few days. As such, trails for your favorite outdoor adventure should be in great shape as we move towards the weekend.
Wisconsin River waters levels are running high again, with very few sandbars showing in the stretch between Wisconsin Dells and Portage. Models predict the levels to recede again by this weekend.
With more stable and consistent weather in the last two weeks, fishing success was pretty good for many anglers across the Northwoods. Smallmouth bass seemed to be the highlight of the past week, but musky action also continued to be good. Walleye fishing continued to be rather erratic, but there have been some decent catches reported. Panfish action has been fair, with bluegill and crappie found suspended near mid-depth structure.
On Green Bay, fishing pressure has been very high due to the outstanding walleye fishing in the last month. Anglers were still reporting decent catches of walleye but have found it to be slightly harder than in previous weeks. Smallmouth bass fishing still remains good throughout Door County and anglers have been catching good numbers of aggressive fish. Yellow perch fishing is beginning to pick up and anglers are reporting very good fishing in the Sturgeon Bay area.
Strong south winds and warm water temperatures slowed fishing on Lake Michigan. On Tuesday Aug. 16, waves were crashing over the south piers at both Kewaunee and Algoma keeping anyone from venturing out. Water temperatures are being reported in the mid 70s from the surface down to 100 feet and this has made it extremely difficult to find the fish. Once cooler weather from west winds blew through, near-shore angling for chinook improved markedly. Anglers in Kewaunee and Manitowoc reported a drop in salmon, with a slight increase in smallmouth and rainbow trout catch.
Many locations continue to report bumper crops of blackberries, but they won't hang on forever. Turkey poults are nearing adult size and many turkey broods are being seen. White-tailed fawns still have fading spots, but are nearing the size of some does and bucks should start shedding their velvet any time now. Bear cubs are healthy, with glossy black fur and fat from berries.
Pond plants like yellow water lily, white water lily and pickerel weed are still in bloom. Wild rice is also ripening amongst the yellows and purples of the end of summer.
Milkweed tussock moth caterpillars are actively feeding on milkweed plants. Unlike monarch caterpillars which also feed on milkweed plants, these caterpillars are gregarious and often entirely defoliate individual milkweed plants, leaving behind skeletonized leaves. Adult milkweed tussock moths have drab pale brown unmarked wings and a yellow abdomen with black spots.
Warblers have begun their southbound migration statewide and other birds on the move include flycatchers, rose-breasted grosbeaks, scarlet tanagers, indigo buntings, bobolinks, and nighthawks are on the move - watch for these zig-zagging aerial insectivores at dawn and dusk over the next three weeks.
Upcoming State Natural Area Workdays
August 20 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The prairie is blooming, come care for Chiwaukee Prairie State Natural Area. Help Chiwaukee Prairie Preservation Fund volunteers during our monthly workdays on the third Saturday and enjoy the beauty of this rich prairie in the process. Remove the invasive weeds threatening the prairie. We will remove these using a variety of techniques. Bring a bag lunch to eat afterwards. No skills needed you will be trained onsite.
August 20 10 a.m. to noon. Please join us to collect seeds on the 3 units of the York Prairie State Natural Area and enjoy the beauty of these prairie remnants. The seeds will be used for a prairie restoration of a former agricultural field at the Stauffacher Unit of Muralt Bluff Prairie State Natural Area near Albany, WI. Because various plant species' seeds are ready at varying times, we have collection days scheduled every two weeks so we can collect things when they're ready. No experience is necessary!
August 21 10 a.m. to noon. Help remove invasive cattails at Pope Lake State Natural Area, in favor of native vegetation! In 2014 we successfully removed cattails from 2 acres on the east side of the SNA. In 2015 there were only a few dozen plants from the same area that held many hundreds last year. In 2015, we removed a little over an acre on the north side of the channel between Manomin and Pope Lakes. Consequently we will continue our efforts by removing cattails in the channel between Pope Lake and Manomin Lake on the south side. There are thousands of plants clogging the channel and we can use all the help we can get. The work will involve cutting the plants at least three inches below water level. This is hard work! Access to the plants will be from both the shore and from boats.
Check the State Natural Areas Volunteer Program page of the DNR website for details. - Jared Urban, conservation biologist, Dane
Statewide Birding Report
The calendar says August but fall bird migration is well underway. Shorebird migration, which began way back in early July, is likely at peak, though only Horicon Marsh has featured high numbers. A flock of 53 Hudsonian godwits there on the August 14 was a great find. Several federally-endangered piping plovers were found along the Lake Michigan shore this week, including one in Racine that hatched just months earlier from the first nest on lower Green Bay in 75 years! Birders statewide also noted the first common nighthawks. Look for these zig-zagging aerial insectivores at dawn and dusk over the next three weeks. Evenings are also a great time to look for gathering concentrations of chimney swifts, another aerial insectivore whose populations have declined in recent decades. You can help by counting the birds at a site near you. Backyard birders reported building numbers of ruby-throated hummingbirds this week. Adult males, with their flashy red throats, will head south first and be gone soon, while females and this year's young will continue well into September. Among the most beloved groups of birds, warblers have begun their southbound migration statewide. Northern birders saw a good influx on the August 14, while the same day brought smaller numbers into southern counties from Madison to Milwaukee, including Tennessee and bay-breasted warblers. Other land birds on the move include olive-sided and yellow-bellied flycatchers, rose-breasted grosbeaks, scarlet tanagers, indigo buntings, bobolinks, and more! Woodlots, shrubby wetlands, and fruit-laden forest edges are great places to seek out a diversity of migrants this time of year. Despite all this migration, some birds are still nesting! Cedar waxwings, American goldfinches, and northern cardinals are notable late nesters. Even some ruby-throated hummingbirds continue to tend chicks in nests this week. Rarities have been few and far between, by far the best being two swallow-tailed kites found in Door County in July and continuing through at least the August 14. As always, help us track the migration by submitting your sightings to ebird.org/wi. Good birding! - Ryan Brady, Bureau of Wildlife Management research scientist, Ashland
Park Falls DNR Service Center area
Upper Chippewa Basin fisheries report (Price, Rusk, Sawyer Taylor and inland Ashland and Iron counties) - With more stable and consistent weather in the last two weeks, fishing success was pretty good for many anglers across the Northwoods. Smallmouth bass seemed to be the highlight of the past week, with area rivers and flowages providing some very good action. Anglers have reported some real nice catches of 16 to 18 inch fish, with a couple of 4-plus-pound smallies being caught and released as well. Most of the fish were found near wood and structure along hard bottom areas that were also close to weeds and deeper water. Top-water baits and larger crayfish-imitating plastics were the most successful baits. Musky action also continued to be good. Fish have been getting increasingly active the last few weeks and most anglers report plenty of activity. Large bucktails, bulldawgs and top-water baits continue to be the lures of choice and most of the fish have been found along the weed edges and even up in some of the dense weed beds. No exceptionally huge musky have been reported, and most of the fish have been in the 34- to 42-inch size. Largemouth bass fishing has been a bit erratic lately - some days produce some great action and other days yield very few bites. The largemouth do seem to be favoring the woody cover and the deeper weed and bog edges. Top-water action has been okay on some days, but soft plastics and jig/craw combinations have provided the most consistent success. Walleye fishing continues to be rather erratic as well, though there have been some decent catches reported. The best success has come from deep-water structure such as rock humps and near cribs, with minnow, leaches and crawlers all producing some fish at times. Panfish action has been fair, with some decent bluegill and crappie being found suspended near mid-depth structure. With widely scattered rain showers in the past few weeks, water levels have been quite variable on area rivers and streams. Some localized heavy rain has kept some streams at a very high level, but others have been running near their normal summer levels. Overall, most rivers and streams are still fully accessible for canoeists or bank anglers. Water temperatures also continue to be rather warm and have consistently been in the upper 70-degree range (though they may start dropping with the cooler weather predicted for the weekend). The bug crop is also very high yet, with lots of mosquitoes, deer flies and "ankle biters" around to irritate outdoor enthusiasts. - Skip Sommerfeldt, senior fisheries biologist, Park Falls
Flambeau River State Forest - Ponds are full of some exciting discoveries and the animal life in and around this habitat. Clams, crayfish, snails, turtles, snakes, just to name a few are visible to an observant eye. So Cool! Golden rod, asters, sneezeweed, the tall sunflower and woodland sunflower are also blooming. The butternuts are already starting to ripen and the squirrels are very interested and the blackberries are ripe and plentiful, so now is your chance to pick them. Wild rice ripens and the nighthawks are starting to migrate. So it seems that the reds and oranges of the spring are gone and the yellows and purples of the end of summer are upon us. It's hard to believe it's mid-August already. Looks like there is some precipitation and thunderstorms in the forecast for part of this week and into this weekend. Rain or not, every day is a good day when you're out enjoying nature. - Diane Stowell, visitor services associate
Antigo DNR Service Center area
Lincoln County - It's a jungle out there! Lots of rain and warm weather has contributed to lush, green vegetation that normally would be browning this time of year. The blackberries are definitely a bumper crop, bring a bucket or two for picking. The raspberries are still holding on in a few locations. Turkey poults are nearing adult size and many turkey broods are being seen. Fawns still have their spots, but are getting large in size, nearing the size of some does. Bear cubs are healthy, with glossy black fur and fat from berries. Some ruffed grouse can be heard flushing in young dense forests. Little and big blue stem grasses are colorful and tall, black eyed susans are in full bloom, fireweed along ditches are blooming or past bloom in some areas, as well as joe-pye weed. Some trails are soggy from rain, but very little bugs causing problems, so it's an excellent time to be outdoors! - Janet Brehm, wildlife biologist, Merrill
Northern Lake Michigan fisheries team report
This is for the week of August 7-13. Hot, humid, and unsettled weather kept fishing pressure low during the past week. By the weekend fishermen and pleasure boaters showed up in big numbers.
Oconto County - Bluegill and crappie are still being caught below the dam at Stiles on the Oconto River to the Highway 141 Bridge. Live bait is working the best coupled with slip bobbers or crappie rigs. Some smallmouth bass were being caught at the mouth of the Oconto River on jigs, stick baits, spinners, and live bait. Some perch were being caught in 9 to 12 feet of water from Oconto Park II to the Pensaukee River mouth. Minnows have worked the best but don't leave home without some crawlers. The walleye fishing has been a bit slow but anglers report catching some very large fish in 9 to 27 feet of water dragging crawler/harness on large stick baits. Anglers also report catching lots and lots of sheepshead along with a few nice catfish. - Kevin King, fisheries technician, Peshtigo
Brown County - Fishing pressure has been very high due to the outstanding walleye fishing that we have had in the Bay of Green Bay the last month. But the fishing from the Suamico ramp slowed down this week. Anglers are still reporting decent catches of walleye but have found it to be slightly harder than in previous weeks. The average this week was about two legal-sized walleyes per boat, which is slightly down from last week. The average size of walleyes brought in this week was around 19 inches. Most anglers were trolling either crank baits or crawler harnesses in 18-24 feet of water. A few musky anglers reported a tough bite, with very few follows and no caught fish. Other fish that anglers caught this week were: freshwater drum, channel catfish, brown bullhead, and white perch. Water temperatures remained in the upper 70s and water clarity is steady at about 1-2 feet. Fishing pressure from the Metropolitan boat launch in Green Bay remains low, with most boats pleasure boaters. A few anglers on Duck Creek were doing very well on yellow perch. Fishing pressure in the Fox River has remained about the same with most of the angling pressure coming from shore anglers. The anglers from shore are reporting catching some good numbers of crappie and bluegill along with channel catfish, white bass, and freshwater drum. The best success has come from throwing live bait on a bottom rig. The anglers launching from various ramps on the Fox River found a handful of smallmouth bass and a few walleye to go with it. Most of the pressure on the river is once again from pleasure boaters enjoying the weather or trying to find a way to beat the heat. Water temperatures in the Fox River remain high in upper 70s and even touching 80 degrees, water clarity remains low at 1 foot. - Derek Apps, fisheries technician, Green Bay
Door County - Salmon fishing in Door County this past week has been hit or miss but some anglers have been catching a good number of very large fish. Early last week there were two 30-plus pound chinook salmon harvested out of Sturgeon Bay with a good number of other salmon caught ranging from 16-20 pounds later in the week. The best action has been reported in 100-150 feet of water with most fish biting in the bottom half of the water column. Although anglers are catching salmon and trout on spoons and plugs, flasher/flies combos have been producing a lot more action. Smallmouth bass fishing still remains good throughout Door County and anglers have been catching good numbers of aggressive fish. The best bite this past week has been in 10-30 feet of water near offshore structure. Yellow perch fishing is beginning to pick up and anglers are reporting very good fishing in the Sturgeon Bay area. Besides the abundant population of small (6-7 inch) perch, many fish ranging from 9-11 inches have been harvested throughout this past week with most anglers focusing their efforts near deep weed lines. Walleye fishing in Door County along the Green Bay shoreline is starting to pick up and anglers are reporting excellent fishing. Good walleye fishing has been reported from Sturgeon Bay north up to Ellison Bay. Anglers are catching good eater size walleyes around the Sturgeon Bay area, and to the north there have been some very large walleyes caught in the past week with reports of one that was over 32 inches. Jigging has been the best method for catching walleyes, but trolling has also brought success for many anglers. - Lucas Koenig and Tim Leverenz, fisheries technicians, Sturgeon Bay
Kewaunee County - Over the past weeks, a lot has happened to Lake Michigan that has really slowed the fishing. On Tuesday Aug. 16, strong south winds kept anyone other than the charter boats from venturing out of both Kewaunee and Algoma. Waves were crashing over the south piers at both locations and this also prevented pier fisherman from even trying. Water temperatures are being reported in the mid 70s from the surface down to 100 feet and this has made it extremely difficult to find the fish. The past week has shown an increase in brown trout and lake trout being harvested while successes with catching chinook salmon have really tapered off. Anglers are coming in with zero to three fish per trip and all have indicated they believe it's due to the water temperatures being too warm. - Lucas Koenig and Tim Leverenz, fisheries technicians, Sturgeon Bay
Manitowoc County - Fishing on the lake has been slow out of Manitowoc and Two Rivers with surface temperatures in the 70s. Fish have been caught at various depths from 40 to 140. Covering water and finding active fish is important. Coho seem to be gone with most catches being mainly chinook with the occasional rainbow. The morning bite seems to be best. Pier anglers have only caught carp, sheepshead and the occasional smallmouth bass since the water has warmed. - Benjamin Thome, fisheries technician, Mishicot
Peshtigo DNR Service Center area
Marinette County - The days are getting significantly shorter and the opener of the first hunting seasons is only a couple of weeks away now. Turkey and grouse young are nearing adult size in many cases. Nighthawks can be seen in the early evenings as they hunt for insects. The blackberries are phenomenal this year with prolific plants found in suitable habitat throughout the county. A diligent berry picker should have no trouble finding a good patch and filling a bucket with little effort. The mosquitoes and ticks are still active but in very low numbers. A variety of mushrooms have been popping up following rainfalls. Spurge hawkmoth caterpillars have again been found feeding in leafy and cypress spurge patches. These large showy beneficial horned worms are a relative of the troublesome tomato hornworm. - Aaron McCullough, wildlife technician, Wausaukee
Green Bay DNR Service Center area
Manitowoc County - We are currently seeing warm water temperatures which is affecting the fishing pressure. Fishermen are catching fish in deeper water than normal. The best times to fish still seem to be in the early mornings or late evenings. Water levels in the inland lakes have dropped significantly from what we were seeing in June. Some of the inland lakes are seeing a large number of weeds (aquatic invasive species). Just a reminder you must remove all aquatic vegetation and water from your boat prior to leaving a boat landing. This is a great time to get out and enjoy the last few weekends of summer. Remember you can rent fishing equipment at Point Beach State Forest if you are in the area and want to give fishing a try. - Alyssa Gove, conservation warden, Manitowoc
Wautoma DNR Service Center area
Waupaca County - Blackberry crop is excellent and at or near peak ripeness right now. Waterfowl are starting to stage, with small flocks buzzing around in the early morning hours. Geese are actively feeding in the wheat stubble. Probably not good for hunting geese or doves as due to the early harvest time, fields will be greening up or worked up and not attractive to the birds for feeding. Spots are fading rapidly on the fawns and bucks should start shedding their velvet any time now. Trout streams look great right now, have not heard nor seen anyone out fishing. - Karl Kramer, wildlife technician, Wautoma
Waushara County - The water is warm and folks have been out and enjoying the above average end of summer days. The water temps are high and even in the cooler mornings it is still comfortable to be lakeside. Fishing has been a little slower as of late, but there have been a few windows of good feeding for bass and panfish on the edges. Fawns are starting to grow up nicely, still plenty of spots, but they are doing well. Turkeys and their young are on the move as the babies grow up and the second or third round of some passerines have been hatching and starting to fledge. Get out and enjoy the last of the summer weeks as fall hunting is just around the corner starting September 1. - Ben Mott, conservation warden, Wautoma
Milwaukee DNR Service Center area
Kettle Moraine State Forest, Southern Unit - The forest contains surprises for professional and amateur naturalists, alike. In the wetlands, this past week, we've seen the exquisitely beautiful American grass-of-Parnassus blooming, as well as the Dr. Seuss-like flower heads of swamp betony, a profusion of Kalm's lobelia and a smattering of the dainty, small-flowered agalinis. In the oak woods, wild coffee is fruiting, and white vervain is blooming. A juvenile broad-winged hawk on a test flight gave nervous calls to its parent, aloft nearby. Meanwhile, in our remnant prairies, yellow prairie dock and pale purple spotted joe pye-weed flowers dominate. There has been an increase in asters and goldenrods which will take center stage in September. Grasshoppers and crickets are the primary musicians during the day and night. Different species make distinct sounds, and often call at distinct times, from distinct habitats. See how many different calls you can distinguish in your area. You don't have to identify things to genus and species to be able to appreciate the biodiversity around you. - Todd Miller, assistant naturalist guide
Southern Lake Michigan fisheries team report - Compiled from creel clerks by Cheryl Masterson and Jeffrey Zinuticz, fisheries technicians, Milwaukee
Milwaukee County - Catch rate for chinook and coho on the shoreline was low due to the warm water along the lakefront. Northeast, east, and southeast winds kept the warm water close to shore for another week. The surface water temperature on the lake side of McKinley Pier was 68-72 degrees. Winds on the weekend brought cold water a little closer to shore but not close enough for the shoreline anglers. Anglers on McKinley Pier have been fishing with shiners and fathead minnows and catching rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, perch and rock bass. A 19-inch coho were landed on the pier Saturday and an 8-pound rainbow was landed recently on the harbor side of the pier. The water temperature in the harbor was 76 degrees on Friday, Aug. 12. Anglers were catching 2- to 3-pound rainbow trout and a few fresh water drum fish were caught in the harbor. Rock bass and fresh water drum fish continue to be caught in the Lake Shore State Park lagoons. Trollers were reporting nice catches of rainbow trout on spoons in the top 40 feet of the water column in 250-260 feet of water. Lake trout were caught with spin-n-glow lures near the bottom of the water column in 80-90 feet of water. West winds on the weekend brought colder water and chinook salmon closer to shore and anglers had good success trolling in 110-115 feet of water. Some of the mature male chinook salmon seen at the McKinley cleaning station were starting to develop a kype. The catch rate for trout and salmon on the South Milwaukee shoreline has been low over the past two weeks due to the warm water along the shoreline. A few small rainbow trout and fresh water drum fish were caught by anglers fishing with fathead minnows and shiners under the Hoan Bridge. Anglers landed a few perch at the Grant Park shoreline but no trout or salmon. Fishing pressure on the Oak Creek Power Plant fishing pier has been steady, with the majority of the fish landed fresh water drum.
Racine County - Most boats are catching between three and five trout or salmon. Most of the fish being caught are rainbows, some kings and some lake trout. Very few coho and brown trout are being caught. Anglers are having the best success in 110-180 feet of water, and running their lures from near the bottom up to the surface. Most fish are being caught on spoons, but no certain colors or patterns seem to work best. No boats fishing for perch were interviewed. The water temperature at the surface is between 70-76 degrees. Only one small brown trout was reported caught on a spoon this week from the piers. Some anglers fishing for salmon and trout have caught a few freshwater drum (sheepshead) this week.
Kenosha County - Most boats are catching between three and six trout and salmon. Most of the fish caught are rainbows and lake trout, but a few coho and chinook have been caught as well. The trout and salmon and being caught on spoons, but no colors seem to be catching more fish. Anglers are having the best success in 100-180 feet of water and running their lures from near the bottom to the surface. No boats fishing for perch were interviewed. The water temperature at the surface has varied from 70-76 degrees. Shore anglers caught a few smaller brown this week.
Sturtevant DNR Service Center area
Racine and Kenosha counties - The lack of rain in the area has left water levels in wetlands and shallow ponds low. Low water levels may make access to some duck hunting areas difficult. Water levels on Richard Bong Recreation Area are also low. Wolf Lake and the larger ponds still have good levels, but some of the smaller ponds are low. Duck hunters can make reservations for waterfowl blinds at Bong. Hunters can make up to five reservations for a season through August 27. Hunters can get more information on waterfowl hunting and other hunting opportunities by contacting the park office at 262-878-5600 or by checking the Bong Naturalist Association website- www.bongnaturalistassocaition.org. A lone trumpeter swan has been seen on Bong throughout the summer. Some of the blooming flowers in the area include prairie dock, cup plant, and blazing star. - Marty Johnson, wildlife biologist, Sturtevant
South Central Region
Fitchburg DNR Service Center area
Columbia County - The Wisconsin River levels are running high again, with very few sandbars showing in the stretch between Wisconsin Dells and Portage. Models predict the levels to recede again by this weekend. This is the greenest August we've experienced in recent memory due to timely rains. Prairies and sedge meadows are ablaze with yellows and purples right now with many goldenrod species starting to show their yellow color. Fall turkey hunters should be in luck as turkey broods are being seen everywhere. Some dove fields in the county were planted a little late this year - dove hunters should scout before the season opens to see if their favorite dove field will be ready for the opener. - Sara Kehrli, wildlife biologist, Poynette
Dane County - Seems like a good acorn year for the white oak group in Dane County, lots of acorns in bur oaks at the office and on the properties. Many turkey broods are now being seen across the county. Monarch numbers seem to be picking up across the county. - Andy Paulios, wildlife biologist, Fitchburg
The catfish are really biting at the Indianford Dam in Rock County. Fishermen are successfully catching limits of catfish. - Jake Donar, conservation warden, Fitchburg
Jefferson County - Recent rain has increased water levels on both the Crawfish and Rock rivers making it easier to access from area launches. Fishing continues to be slow overall on both rivers, though catfish, freshwater drum, and carp are frequently caught. Panfish and bass continue to be caught on Rock Lake in Lake Mills. The opening of early teal, early goose, and dove season is September 1. A few small groups of teal have been observed on the Rock River and in Zeloski Marsh. Many hunters are out scouting already. Make sure to check the regulations for law changes before heading out. - Pearl Wallace, conservation warden, Jefferson
West Central Region
Baldwin DNR Service Center area
St. Croix County - Loon chicks have reached adult size on Straight Lake in Polk County. Common nighthawks are staging. Rigid, Canada and giant goldenrods are in full bloom in St. Croix County the last splash of yellow before the next wave of New England aster is upon us in early September. - Harvey Halvorsen, wildlife supervisor, Baldwin
La Crosse DNR Service Center area
Vernon County - Milkweed tussock moth caterpillars are actively feeding on milkweed plants. Unlike monarch caterpillars which also feed on milkweed plants, these caterpillars are gregarious and often entirely defoliate individual milkweed plants, leaving behind skeletonized leaves. Milkweed tussock moths are also knowns as milkweed tiger moths are common mid- through late-summer feeder on milkweeds and dogbane, especially older milkweed shoots, and seldom share plants with monarchs which prefer younger plants. Sporting tufts of black, white, and orange and sometimes yellow clusters of hairs known as setae, these fuzzy caterpillars look like clumps or tussocks of yarn. Adult milkweed tussock moths have drab pale brown unmarked wings and a yellow abdomen with black spots. Caterpillars and adults incorporate a toxin in their bodies from the milkweed they eat, and that toxin makes them poisonous to predators. They "advertise" that poison to the predators through their larval stage coloration, and adults indicate their unpalatability with clicks from their specialized tymbal organs. - Dave Matheys, wildlife biologist, Viroqua